10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey

10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey

Do you know anyone who has been struck down with Cancer? Anyone who might be on that journey at the moment? A young person needing encouragement? I was struck down with cancer at the age of nine and underwent some radiation treatment (2.5 times the adult dose), followed by significant major surgery during the next couple of years and then again when I was 18. My parents were told that I probably had two years to live and, during these two years, my mother died suddenly. Thankfully, I survived the Cancer and now, 50 years later, reflecting on my life journey to date, I happily share 10 Life Lessons that I have learnt, through trial and error, highs and lows, over the years and which helped me through challenging adolescent years as I came to terms with my disfigurement and responded to it. I share these experiences with teenagers I mentor, encouraging them to keep on keeping on through the confusing adolescent years, especially when the odds are stacked against them. Following these key tips has taught me the importance of living a positive life journey filled with HOPE, experiencing unconditional love and care from those closest to me, whilst also feeling valued and, ultimately, leading a life of meaning and purpose with a strong sense of serving others. Anyone who has suffered from Cancer will know the challenges one experiences overcoming times of adversity and enjoying success. Here’s what my life experiences have taught me: Attitude – never forget that you choose your attitude and how you respond to all that life throws at you. The choices you...
‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

“Gr8 Mates Rox!” wrote a student participating in the Gr8 Mates school based youth mentoring program when the first surveys of the trial program were carried out. How positive is that, especially coming from a student who was experiencing low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence when she embarked on her mentoring journey. While there were a few wobbles during the early days of the program as a result of some transient students, the program did settle down and became a wonderful journey of self-empowerment and building relationships between young people and their volunteer adult mentors. On one occasion the mentors from one of the programs accompanied their mentees to a local Careers Market where they had the opportunity to visit a variety of stalls covering many possible careers, places for further study, Apprenticeship opportunities and lots more. Approximately 6,600 students passed through this event over two days. It was easy for some students to waste the opportunity, perhaps even feel overwhelmed by all the information on offer to them, though this was not the case in the situations where mentors accompanied their mentees. One mentor assisted a student with the development of a career plan, offering extra time to take the student to visit a friend of hers to chat about the career this young student had expressed an interest in pursuing. On another evening a mentor accompanied her mentee to the student’s subject selection evening at the student’s school and, judging from the emails that were exchanged after that particular evening, this experience further cemented the mentoring relationship. Another mentor was planning to introduce his mentee to...
Surfing through life as a Mentor?!

Surfing through life as a Mentor?!

“How can I help you?” That’s probably the question I ask more than any other when someone approaches me for a chat. It leads to great discussions which are followed by a look at prioritizing which inevitably takes us to goal setting. And, if this involves mentoring an adolescent, I am quick to share the three key points to move them towards a balanced and healthy lifestyle: “How many hours sleep a night are you having?” (Should be 9 hours every night) “How many hours of exercise each week are you having?” (Should be a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours) “Are you eating a healthy breakfast?” (If not, early academic time will be a waste of energy, as the brain will not be functioning at full throttle!) These are well researched facts now and, while there will always be exceptions to the rule, when mentees are able to tick these three boxes, they will automatically notice the difference in their lives. I was thinking a short while ago, while I was writing my Mentoring Minutes 2 minutes a day Podcasts, of the conversation I had with Rachel (not her real name) when she asked if she could have a chat with me. “How can I help you?” I asked. “I want you to mentor me. I need help with my planning and organization. Last year I lived on five hours sleep a night, I pushed myself so hard to achieve my academic goals and make my parents happy. I achieved them all but I don’t want to live like this anymore. In fact, I’m not going to live...
Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Drone parents or empowering Mentors for our adolescents?

Thinking again about how different life is today from when I was a child. What can you remember about your childhood? I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – Jungle Jims, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents; we listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town); we watched the international sports folk practising and mingled with them after and before matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that; Squad Cars; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon and Sir Gay Gromuko or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on. These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational Therapist, Victoria Prooday, The silent tragedy affecting today’s children, which has been read by over 10 million people during the...
How peer pressure changes lives

How peer pressure changes lives

“All successful people have a goal. No-one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”  (Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993)) Over the years I have done a lot of work in High or Secondary Schools, attended by 13 to 19-year old students. One of the greatest issues I confront each time is the effect of peer pressure on the lives of these students. It’s seen in the negative attitude to ‘anything’ that is said. It’s seen in the way students, who want to ask questions, who want to get involved in an activity, who want to answer questions etc., remain silent for fear of what their peers might say. It’s supposedly not ‘cool’ to try too hard. Sometimes there are deeper reasons that complicate things even more, as will be evident in the four stories I’ll share in this Blog. I heard the story about Rachel (not her real name), who did really well at Primary School. However, when she moved to High or Senior School she only just passed her exams – 50%, 51%, those types of marks. When challenged, she admitted that she did not want to lose her friends, so she was just doing enough to get through. And, having been an enthusiastic class participant, she also retreated into herself so she did not stand out amongst her peers. Rachel’s story will be familiar to most readers, I am sure. In Letter 2 a Teen, which I wrote as a genuine letter to any teenager trying to find their way during one of the most...
Patience and Perseverance the way to achieve!

Patience and Perseverance the way to achieve!

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” (anonymous) I love this quote, as it resonates with me and my life journey to date, as I think about all those who have coached, mentored and encouraged me along the different paths I have travelled. There have been times when I have been impatient at the lack of progress with an idea or because other people simply can’t catch the vision, while at other times I have wondered what would have happened had I persevered. How many times can you remember quitting and, as you reflected at a later date, regretted doing so? Three stories from the past week have shown what perseverance, even patience can mean as individuals strive to achieve different goals. The picture that heads my blog today is of Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm, aged 25, winning the World 200 meters Backstroke at the World Championships in Budapest. From the high standards she had set for herself, she failed abysmally at the Rio Olympic Games and came close to quitting the sport. She was suffering from health issues and, once these were sorted, decided to persevere. Having been swimming for Australia for 11 years, few would have begrudged her deciding to retire, as she had won so many medals already. However, she clearly felt she had more to achieve and  so began the long, lonely slog of training and training and training! Her patience with herself and her perseverance, together with the critical support of key people in her...